A small nonprofit makes a big impact for families in need

01 Sep 2019

Little Willows provides coordinated clothing boxes

By Emily O’Brien Kim Gentert and her sister, Tricia Runkles, believe in a community where everyone has just enough. Born in Denver and raised in Longmont, they longed to better serve their community—especially the children in it. Gentert says they began by asking themselves, “What if there was a way to take the excess from the overwhelmed and provide it to those in need? Could we be part of the solution?” Stemming from this, the two sisters founded Little Willows, a nonprofit providing beautifully coordinated clothing boxes (think Stitch Fix) of gently used kids’ clothes to underserved families. At least 10 everyday outfits, one fancier piece, three to four pajamas, new packages of socks and underwear and, if available, items such as outerwear, are delivered seasonally, unless children outgrow them sooner. Boxes are arranged by size, season and style. The gifted clothing sets are for children sized preemie through 5T who are in foster care, facing homelessness or have special needs. The sisters’ dream is to give new life to well-loved clothes so that when they’re placed in the hands of a new family, it would feel completely different, “like an intentional gift.” “No overflowing drawers, no empty closets...simply homes with enough good, quality things to provide for their daily needs and make them feel at home,” Gentert says of the donated clothing sets. To ensure the donated items meet their standards, the sisters, along with many helpful volunteers, do a fair share of sorting and organizing by the size and seasonal needs of each child on the receiving end. Boxes provide all essential clothing needs for about a week, and the cute everyday styles help bolster confidence in little ones. “We know the process is worth it every time we get to see the joy and ease it brings to families receiving a beautiful box. I have a smile on my face all day after delivering a clothing box to a little one’s home. As a willow tree symbolizes, our hope is that each box helps cultivate strength and confidence in a child’s life so they can withstand the greatest of challenges,” says Gentert. The organization currently serves families via referral through partnering organizations, but Runkles says the organization’s board provides a case-by-case approval for families with clothing needs that have not been referred through a partnering organization. The sisters operate out of their homes in Longmont and Fort Collins, and serve Boulder, Larimer and Weld counties. They say coworkers can make or break a job, and working as sisters and best friends is a dream come true, although it hasn’t always been easy. “Getting this organization off the ground has been an adventure for sure,” says Gentert. “It is crazy to think back a year to when Little Willows was just an idea in our heads—now it is a fully functioning nonprofit. Once we got our 501(c)(3) status, it felt like a huge accomplishment!” And community partnerships are growing by the week. Maple Star Colorado, MOPS, The Family Village, Waggle, Trailhead and The Genesis Project are all on their roster. Always in need of clothing and financial donations, Little Willows has several clothing drop-off locations along the Front Range. “People can also make financial donations online,” Gentert says, “so we can continue to provide these at no cost to families.” ■
Visit www.littlewillows.org to learn more about donating your gently used clothing or getting help for a family in need.
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